NEPA Scene Staff

Luzerne County Chambers launch Project EVOLVE to support businesses affected by COVID-19

Luzerne County Chambers launch Project EVOLVE to support businesses affected by COVID-19
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From a press release:

The Greater Wilkes-Barre, Greater Hazleton, Greater Pittston, and Back Mountain Chambers of Commerce have launched a new economic development initiative called Project EVOLVE.

Project EVOLVE is an initiative designed to identify solutions and align external innovation to assist local businesses as they adjust to, and thrive in, the new post-COVID economy. EVOLVE leverages the innovation, products, and services already located in Northeastern Pennsylvania as a means to provide cross-industry solutions to help businesses adapt to new methods of doing business.

Project EVOLVE utilizes a systematic approach to identify COVID-generated challenges within the Top 10 industries in NEPA. These industries, chosen based upon the number of establishments and percentage of overall employment, are health care and social assistance, retail trade, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, other services except public administration, wholesale trade, professional and technical services, and finance and insurance. By addressing one industry at a time, then leveraging the network and strength of local economic development partners, the chambers will identify and deliver innovative solutions to help businesses “evolve” and thrive during the coronavirus pandemic.

The economic development partners include Wilkes-Barre Connect, Small Business Development Center at Wilkes University, The Institute, Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University, Family Business Alliance, Diamond City Partnership, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

Project EVOLVE has three main components:

1. Industry-specific surveys: Allows businesses in each specific industry to confidentially share information on the challenges and opportunities they have seen during and post-COVID-19.

2. Industry-specific roundtable discussions: Enables businesses to actively engage in the process of identifying challenges and new opportunities while sharing their vision for success.

3. Presentation of solutions: Deliver solutions and identify providers in NEPA who can assist businesses in pivoting and adapting to meet and overcome the challenges encountered during this most difficult time.

All businesses in Luzerne County are encouraged to participate in the survey and roundtable discussion for their specific industry. All surveys are currently open and available at Free roundtable discussions have begun and will be held on the following dates at noon via Zoom:

Sept. 23: Health care and social assistance
Sept. 30: Retail trade
Oct. 7: Accommodation and food services
Oct. 14: Manufacturing
Oct. 21: Construction
Oct. 28: Transportation and warehousing
Nov. 4: Other services (except public admin)
Nov. 11: Wholesale trade
Nov. 18: Professional and technical services
Nov. 25: Finance and insurance

If you are interested in participating in a survey or roundtable discussion for your industry, contact Tim Ooms at or Shanie Mohamed at Visit for more information and to register for each discussion and complete the survey.

Project EVOLVE received $300,000 in CARES Act funding distributed by Luzerne County, launched on Sept. 14 and concluding on Dec. 31.

“There is no ‘one size-fits-all’ solution to getting our Luzerne County economy back to where we were pre-pandemic,” County Manager David Pedri said. “EVOLVE gives each business and industry the specific tools to succeed.”

“We are thankful for the support and partnership of Luzerne County, our Luzerne County Chambers, and our local partners as we all work together on this solution based initiative to help our businesses through the challenges of COVID-19,” added Mary Malone, president of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce.

“Project EVOLVE’s roundtable component enables solution-driven, honest dialogue with business owners and leaders who have been directly impacted by the pandemic. Deliberate connection to others – and the ability to openly discuss industry-specific issues and solutions – is imperative, especially during this time,” said Jenny Hetro, executive director of the Back Mountain Chamber.

Michelle Mikitish, executive vice president of the Greater Pittston Chamber, is excited about the opportunities presented by this new partnership and urges businesses to engage in the EVOLVE initiative.

“It is crucial for business leaders to know that they are not alone in this puzzling new world, and many of your friends and colleagues are experiencing similar challenges. By working together and engaging new partners, we can all learn how to EVOLVE our business so that everyone can be successful,” Mikitish stated.

Lindsay Griffin, COO and vice president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, encourages all businesses to get involved in this collaborative and innovative approach.

“This is one of several ways in which we will all be working together to create the most impact for our businesses and residents of our area to continue evolving and thriving into 2020 and beyond. In addition to EVOLVE, more projects will be announced soon and function as a collective approach to the strong recovery of our county.”

The mission statement of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce is to unite and support community-conscious business organizations and individuals in Luzerne County and to seek to enhance the business climate, business success, quality of life, and general welfare in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Photo by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene